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At ike request of" The Tradesmen's Association for Advancing the 
Interests of the Church of Scotland." 

No. 2. 






Price Fourpence. 





By the Rev. William Cunningham, 

Minister of Trinity College Church, Edinburgh. 

Delivered November 28, 1839. 

2 Cor. iv. 5. — " For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus 
the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake," — 
that is, we preach not ourselves as Lords, but we preach 
Christ Jesus as Lord, and we preach ourselves as your 
servants for Jesus' sake. 

When our blessed Saviour was arraigned at the bar of 
Pilate, he openly declared that he was a king-, and that 
he had a kingdom, while, at the 6ame time, he asserted 
that his kingdom was not of this world. It is quite evi- 
dent from the general tenor, as well as from many ex- 
press statements of Scripture, that this kingdom of Christ, 
though not of the world, was yet to be in the world, and 
was to consist of an organized society of men, who pro- 
fessed to receive Christ as their Saviour and their King, 
— to expect spiritual blessings from the use of the ordi- 
nances which he had appointed, to feel their obligations 
to obey all his laws, and who were associated together 
according to his directions for the attainment of these 
ends. All the views given us in Scripture of the Church 
or Kingdom of Christ, plainly imply that it is a society, 
the members of which, in their common subjection to 
him as its only head, are united to one another, or asso- 
ciated together in the performance of duties, and in the 
enjoyment of privileges. 

Society, i. c, organized or regulated union, implies 
superiority on the part of some, and subordination on 
the part of others, as it is scarcely possible, ordinarily, 


2 LECTl'ItF. II. 

that the objects of the union or association of n 
men, can be fully attained, except bv some of it> 
members being vested with a right of superintend 

and control, which implies the possession b\' them of 
a certain power or authority, and imposes upon the 
other members of the society a certain obligation to 
obedience or submission. Accordingly, almost all socie- 
ties, whatever may be the origin, ground, or object 
their formation, have office-bearers, in whom the ordinarv 
management or control of their affairs is vested. In ac- 
cordance with this general principle, founded on the light 
of nature, and sanctioned by the common sense and the 
ordinary practice of men, there are full and explicit inti- 
mations in Scripture, that in Christ's church or kingdom, 
of which he himself is the only head or lawgiver, there 
should be government and subordination, office-bearers, 
who are invested with a certain species and measure of 
authority, and ordinary members, who are under obliga- 
tions to render, to a certain extent, submission and obe- 
dience. It is this power or authority committed to the 
office-bearers of the Christian Church, its objects, charac- 
ter, and standard, that we are called upon now to consider ; 
and in doing so, we shall not occupy your time with 
labouring to prove those doctrines on this subject, which 
all Presbyterians concur in holding, and which being laid 
down in the Westminster standards, are maintained not 
only by all the office-bearers of the Established Church, 
but by the great body of the Presbyterian Dissenters. 
Our great object, of course, is to show, that the truths . 
taught in the Word of God, embodied in our standards, 
and professed by all Scottish Presbyterians, with respect 
to church power or ecclesiastical authority, do, when 
rightly understood and fairly applied, afford the fullest 
warrant for the recent proceedings and present claims of 
the Church of Scotland. 

It is declared in the Westminster Confession, and, of 
course, is professedly maintained as a Scripture truth by 
all the office-bearers of our Church, (c. xxx. <. l,)that 
* the Lord Jesus, as king and head of his Church, hath 


therein appointed a government in the hand of church- 
officers, distinct from the civil magistrate." And this 
great truth is a part of the sworn creed, not only of 
all the office-bearers of the Established Church, but of 
all our Presbyterian Dissenting- brethren, both those 
who have adhered to the original Secession principles, 
and those who have adopted views opposed to all na- 
tional establishments of religion ; for not only do they 
all receive this part of the Confession of Faith without 
limitation, but what is peculiarly deserving of notice, the 
original Seceders, seeing, even then in the conduct of the 
prevailing party in our judicatories, plain traces of that 
monstrous combination of a Popish lording over God's 
heritage with a spirit of Erastian subjection to civil au- 
thority, which so long degraded, and had wellnigh ruined 
the Church of Scotland, and which, though lately broken 
and destroyed, some are now striving to re-introduce, in- 
serted in their formula of ordination, the still more full 
and explicit declaration, that " Jesus Christ, the only king 
and head of his Church, hath appointed therein a govern- 
ment, distinct from civil government, and not subordi- 
nate to the same," — a truth, which with some little 
variety of expression, not affecting its substantial import, 
always has been, and still continues to be, a part of the 
public solemn profession of all who call themselves Sece- 

As, then, this great doctrine, that " the Lord Jesus, 
us king and head of his Church, hath therein appointed 
a government, in the hand of church-officers, distinct 
from the civil magistrate," both as implying, in opposition 
to the Erastians, that he has appointed a distinct govern- 
ment, and also, in opposition to the Independents, that 
he has committed the administration of this distinct go- 
vernment, not to the bod;] of the people, but to church- 
officers, that is, to ministers and elders, is one which no 
office-bearer of the Church of Scotland dare dispute, and 
which no intelligent Scottish Presbyterian will denv, 
we shall not dwell on the scriptural evidence on which 
it rests, but taking its truth as it stands in our Confr 


for granted, we shall attempt to explain its true mean- 
ing and import, and show its bearing upon the pr< 
subjects of contention. 

The plain and obvious import of this proposition is, 
that as there is in a State or commonwealth, govern- 
ment, or a power of direction and control, vesting authority 
in the magistrate, and imposing an obligation to obey 
upon the subjects, so there is also in the Church, which 
had previously been defined on good scriptural grounds, 
(c. xxv. s. 2,) to " consist of all those throughout the 
world that profess the true religion together with their 
children," a government, or power of regulation and con- 
trol, distinct from civil government, flowing from Christ 
as mediator, subject wholly to his control, and \ested by 
him not in magistrates or civil functionaries, but in 
church-officers, i. e.> in ministers and elders. This asser- 
tion of a government established by Christ in the Church, 
in the hand of church-officers, distinct from the civil ma- 
gistrate, was openly controverted in the Westminster 
Assembly ; and the opposite doctrine, that he had not 
appointed a distinct government, was openly maintained. 
There seem, indeed, to have been only two ministers so 
thoroughly Erastian, as to deny that Christ had appointed 
in his Church a government distinct from the civil, and 
only one who openly argued against it ; but as Bail lie, 
who was one of the Commissioners of the Church of 
Scotland in that Assembly, tells us, in his Letters, (vol. 
ii. p. 195,) " the lawyers in the Parliament did blow up 
the poor man with much vanity, so that he is become 
their champion to bring out, in the best way he can, 
Erastian arguments against the proposition, for the con- 
tentment of the Parliament.'' The Erastian lawyers of 
that period, being men greatly superior in point of talent 
and learning to those who have undertaken the defence 
of the same bad cause in our own day, saw clearly that 
the whole Erastian controversy turned upon the question, 
whether or not Christ had appointed in his Church a 
government distinct from the civil ; and having failed in 
their attempts to persuade the Assembly to reject this 

lecture ir. 5 

proposition, they exerted their influence in Parliament to 
prevent its receiving a civil sanction ; and, accordingly, 
through this Erastian influence, and upon this Erastian 
ground, the English Parliament refused to give the civil 
sanction to the thirtieth chapter of the Westminster 
Confession. * 

Some of the Erastian lawyers of our own day have sub- 
scribed the Confession as elders ; and none of them can dis- 
pute, that the proposition which we are considering, being 
contained in the Confession, has received the explicit sanc- 
tion of civil statute in Scotland, and ought therefore to be 
received as law in the Parliament House as well as in the 
General Assembly. But being precluded from meeting 
this proposition, as the old Erastians did, with a direct ne- 
gative, they have made some feeble and awkward attempts 
to explain away the meaning of the statement. They have 
been particularly anxious to limit the application of this 
general position, as they could not but feel, that if Christ 
has appointed a distinct government in his Church in the 
hand of his own officers, then, in regard to every thing fairly 
comprehended in the administration of this government, 
the interference of any foreign or civil authority is by 
this appointment, from the very nature of the case, ne- 
cessarily excluded. It has recently been alleged, that the 
distinct government which Christ is here said to have 
appointed in his Church, refers only to the power of 
inflicting and remitting church censures. But this posi- 
tion is utterly destitute of any foundation in the words 
used, which naturally and obviously include something 
more wide and comprehensive, and is inconsistent with 
the general tenor of the whole statements on the subject 
in the Confession, f It is certain that this proposition 
was intended* by the Westminster Assembly, to contain 
a general deliverance on the whole Erastian controversy. 
This is proved by the express testimony of Baillie, who 

* Neal's History of the Puritans, vol. iii. p. 320-1. 

t See pp. 99 and 104 of the Dean of Faculty's Letter to the 
Lord Chancellor, and pp. G7-71 of Mr Dunlop's most admir- 
able, complete, and conclusive " Answer." 


makes the following- statement regarding it : " Coming 
upon the article of the Church, and the Church notes, 
to oppose the Erastian heresy^ which in this land is 
very strong, especially among the lawyers, unhappy 
members of this Parliament, we find it necessary to say" 
— and then he introduces the position we are at present 
considering, (vol. ii. p. 195.) 

This is plain, also, from the following account of the 
matter, given in Neal's History of the Puritans, (vol. iii. 
p. 278) : " The first committee was appointed to deter- 
mine, whether any particular church government was 
jure divino, and to bring their proofs from Scripture. But 
here they stumbled at the very threshold, for the Eras- 
tians divided them and entered their dissent ; and when 
the question was put, they withdrew from the Assembly, 
and left the high Presbyterians to themselves, who agreed, 
with only one dissenting voice, that Jesus Christ, as king 
of the Church, hath himself appointed a church govern- 
ment distinct from the civil magistrate." 

The Erastian lawyers of our day seem to think, that 
by confining the declaration, that Christ has appointed a 
government in his Church, distinct from the civil, in the 
hands of ecclesiastical office-bearers, to the subject of 
Church censures, they leave the other departments of 
Church government, such as the examination, admission, 
and ordination of ministers, free to be controlled by the 
superintending authority of the civil power, whereas, if 
they were acquainted with the history of the Erastian 
controversy, they would know, that while the Erastians 
usually denied altogether that Christ had appointed a 
government in the Church distinct from the civil, they 
directed their arguments and their efforts mainly against 
the right of the ecclesiastical office-bearers to injlict 
Church censures, a fact which at once accounts for the 
connection in the Confession between the great general 
truth about a distinct government and the subject of 
Church censures, which is only one of the applications of 
this truth, and also shows, that the inference which has 
been deduced from the connection is erroneous. In fact, ; 


tbe Erastians of those days did not venture to deny, that 
the ordination of ministers belonged by divine authority 
to the Church ; and when Coleman, the minister referred 
to in the extract formerly given from Baillie, maintained 
that Christ had not appointed a distinct government in 
the Church, and did so chiefly for the purpose of over- 
throwing the right of Church-officers to inflict censures, 
Gillespie, who took the leading part in conducting this 
controversy, pressed him with this objection, that this 
general proposition would exclude not only suspension 
from the sacrament and excommunication, but also the 
ordination and deposition of ministers, except under the 
control of the civil magistrate; the ordination and depo- 
sition of office-bearers being manifestly included in Church 
government, as well as the suspension and excommuni- 
cation of ordinary members. And Coleman, in reply, 
instead of venturing to maintain, that ordination and 
deposition are subject to the control of the civil magis- 
trate, alleged that ordination did not fall under the head 
of Church government, but under the " commission of 
teaching," and so belonged jure clivino to the Church, 
even though the doctrine, that Christ had appointed a 
distinct government in the Church were denied. (Gilles- 
pie's Male Audis, p. 8, 9.) This reply of Coleman was 
evidently a mere evasion, but as, on the one hand, Gilles- 
pie's objection shows how universally and decidedly it was 
then held by orthodox divines, that the distinct govern- 
ment which Christ had appointed, comprehended every 
thing connected with the ordination of office-bearers as 
well as the infliction of Church censures, so, on the other, 
Coleman's answer shows very strikingly how impossible 
the Erastians of those days felt it to be, to give the civil 
magistrate any control over ordination, even while they 
subjected to his authority the whole matter of Church 

From these facts it is manifest, that the attempt of 
modern Erastians to confine the great truth embodied in 
the Confession, and in the statute law of Scotland, that 
Christ has appointed in his Church a government distinct 


from the civil, in the hands of ecclesiastical office-bearers, 
to the subject of Church censures, is inconsistent with the 
known principles and objects of those who prepared it ; 
and also, that in order to defend their Erastian views, 
precluded as they are from denying 1 this great fundamen- 
tal truth, thev are obliged to have recourse to absurdities 
and extravagancies, of which the more able and learned 
Erastians of former days would have been ashamed. 

The Erastians of former days denied to Church offi- 
cers only, or chiefly, the power of inflicting Church cen- 
sures, independently of the control of the civil magistrate, 
and left them the other powers usually comprehended 
under the head of Church government, while the More 
ignorant Erastians of our own day would leave to them 
only the power of inflicting Church censures independent- 
ly, and would subject their other powers of jurisdiction 
to the superintendence and control of the civil authority. 
The old Erastians thought that the power of inflicting 
censures, i. e., of suspending and excluding- from ordi- 
nances, was almost the onlv part of the authority usuallv 
claimed by ecclesiastical office-bearers, which they could 
plausibly or successfully assail ; and had they been pre- 
cluded as our modern Erastians are, by the express terms 
of the Confession, from denying the general principle, 
that Christ has appointed a distinct government in his 
Church, and the application of this general principle to 
the subject of Church censures, they would at once have 
acknowledged that a fortiori, the power of admitting and 
ordaining- ministers belonged exclusively to the Church 
itself by scriptural authority. 

Not only, however, is it certain, that this doctrine of 
the Confession was intended to be a deliverance on the 
Erastian controversy in general, and not merely on the 
subject of Church censures ; but the statement itself, as it 
stands in the Confession and in the Statute Book, plainly 
does decide, in its fair import and application, all our dis- 
putes with Erastians, and lay a firm and sure foundation 
for all for which the Church of Scotland is at present 
contending. If Christ, as king and head of his Church, 


has appointed therein a government in the hand of 
Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate, it plainly 
follows, that none without the Church can have any share 
in this government, or any control over its exercise ; that 
none can administer it but the church officers, into whose 
hands Christ has put it, that in the exercise of it they 
are subject and accountable only to him, and that any 
attempt by other parties than Church officers to assume 
the administration of this government, or to interfere in 
regulating its exercise, is an unwarrantable usurpation, 
a depriving of Church office-bearers of the power and 
authority which Christ has conferred upon them, an 
assumption of his supremacy, a perversion of his arrange- 
ments. When, then, the Seceders introduced into their 
formula the position, that this government " is not sub- 
ordinate to the civil," they were merely explaining and 
expanding the statement of the Confession, that it is 
" distinct " from the civil ; for if Christ has appointed a 
Church government distinct from the civil, it is self-evi- 
dent that the civil magistrate, as such, or in virtue of his 
office and of the power and authority belonging to it, has 
no right to interfere in its administration ; and that if he 
does claim any such right, he must found it not upon the 
power or authority which he is entitled to exercise as 
civil magistrate, but upon some special and express war- 
rant of Christ himself. 

Christ has put the administration of this distinct go- 
vernment into the hand of Church officers, and of them 
alone, and no others, therefore, unless they can produce 
an express divine warrant, are entitled to take it into 
their own hand, or to direct or control his office-bearers 
in the administration of it. And in exact accordance 
with this great scriptural principle, the Confession 
(c. xxni. s. 3,) declares, that the " civil magistrate may 
not assume to himself the power of the keys of the king- 
dom of heaven,'' an expression which comprehends all 
exercise of church power, all authoritative interference in 
the administration of ecclesiastical government. 

Assuming, then, that the doctrine of the Word of 


God, of the Confession of Faith, and consequently of the 
statute law of Scotland, that the Lord Jesus, as king and 
head of his Church, hath therein appointed a government 
in the hand of Church officers, di>tinct from the civil 
magistrate, involves an assertion, that not merely the 
matter of Church censures, hut the whole outward govern- 
ment of the Church, has been authorised and appcmted by 
Christ, and vested by him in ecclesiastical office-bearers, 
and that, of course, in the administration of this govern- 
ment the civil magistrate has no riiiht authoritatively to 
interfere, that the conduct of church officers in the ex- 
ercise of this government, he has no right to order or 
control ; let us proceed to inquire what the administra- 
tion of this government implies ; what it is that church 
officers, in the exercise of the authority intrusted to them 
by Christ, are to do ; and upon what principles, or by what 
standard, their conduct in this matter ought to be regulated. 
Now, the great general truth upon these points is 
this, that church officers are in Christ's name, and in 
accordance with his directions, to manage or transact all 
the ordinary necessary business of his visible Church. 
Christ appointed and sent forth men to preach the Gos- 
pel, and to administer the ordinances of baptism and the 
Lord's Supper, as the ordinary and appointed means of 
conveying to men the spiritual blessings which he died to 
purchase. All Presbyterians agree in holding, that these 
ordinances — the public preaching of the Word, and the 
dispensation of the sacraments — can ordinarily be adminis- 
tered only by ordained ministers of the Gospel, and this 
power or privilege of the ordained ministers of the Word, 
is usually called the power of order [potestas ordinigk 
Christ, of course, intended that these ordinances shoulJ 
be administered by ordained pastors in every succeeding ] ij 
age until the end of the world. And, therefore, the first j 
and fundamental part of the ordinary necessary business 
of his visible Church, must be the appointment from time 
to time, in all ages, of those persons who are to adminis- 
ter his ordinances. So long as the Church continues, this 
process of appointing ministers must be constantly going 


on. Christ must have had it view, and, accordingly, as 
we might have expected, he has given us some directions 
in his Word, as to the wav in which ministers should be 
appointed and set apart to their work, all of which 
should be faithfully applied and acted on. He has be 
stowed upon the Christian people, who are his body, and 
for whose edification the work of the ministry was ap- 
pointed, a considerable share of influence in the election 
of those who are to be over them in the Lord, and to 
watch for their souls, as will be fully proved in the next 
Lecture of this series. But according to the unanimous 
opinion of Presbyterians, in opposition to the Indepen- 
dents, the trial of the qualifications of ministers, and their 
ordination, or solemn setting apart to the pastoral func- 
tion, forming an essential part of that distinct government 
which he has appointed in his Church, belong to those 
who are already church officers. This principle is found- 
ed upon the accounts given us in the Book of the Acts 
of the appointments of different ecclesiastical office-bear- 
ers, the directions given to Timothy and Titus about the 
qualifications and ordination of bishops or pastors, and 
the fact that Timothy was ordained by the laying on of 
the hands of the Presbytery. As this is acknowledged by 
all Presbyterians, and indeed by all but Independents, we 
shall not enlarge upon the scriptural proof of it, but as- 
sume that the examination and ordination of ministers, 
being an essential part of church government, a necessary 
and fundamental branch of the ordinary business that 
must be transacted in the Christian Church, has been 
vested by Jesus Christ in his own ecclesiastical office- 
bearers, and should therefore be managed by them alone, 
without interference or control from any foreign autho- 
rity, and in subjection only to Christ himself. The exa- 
mination and ordination of pastors, including the deter- 
mination in each particular case of the question, whether 
a certain individual possesses the necessary scriptural 
qualifications, and ought to be ordained to the office of 
the holy ministry, is a part of what is usually called the 
power of jurisdiction, (jjotestas juriadiclionis,) and it u 

12 LECTURE ir. 

a fundamental principle of Presbyterian Church govern- 
ment, that in no instance should any question on this 
subject be decided by any single man, but only by a plur- 
ality of individuals, forming a Church Court, regularly 
constituted in Christ's name. 

Another essential part of the ordinary necessary busi- 
ness of Christ's visible Church, comprehended also under 
the head of the power of jurisdiction, and, like the former, 
to be exercised only by courts, and not by individuals, is 
the right of determining who shall be admitted to par- 
take in the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. 
No one, indeed, has a right to determine what qualifica- 
tions are necessary for the enjoyment of these privileges 
except Christ himself, the only head of the Church, and 
he has determined this in his Word. But from the na- 
ture of the case, there must be some provision for apply- 
ing his directions upon this point to individuals as they 
may apply for admission. Unless there is to be an in- 
discriminate admission of all to the sacraments, without j 
any regard to character and qualifications, there must be 
some party to determine in the case of each individual 
applying, whether or not he appear to possess the quali- 
fications which Christ in his Word requires, and ought 
therefore to be admitted to the enjoyment of the ordi- 
nances. This is an essential part of church govern- 
ment, a process that must be constantly going on in the 
management of the affairs of the visible Church. And 
Presbyterians are unanimous in holding, in opposition to 
Independents, that the right of determining tbis in the 
case of each individual, has been vested by Christ, not in 
the body of the people, but in regularly constituted 
Church Courts, composed of ecclesiastical office-bearers. 
It is on this, indeed, mainly, that the power or authority 
of the ecclesiastical office-bearers is founded. It rests 
upon these two propositions, \st, That it is the bounden 
duty of all to whom the Gospel is preached, to be baptized, 
and to commemorate Christ's death. * 2d, That Christ 

* It is a curious fact upon this point, that Grotius, perhaps 
the most illustrious advocate of Erastian principles, that he 


h?'i vested in ecclesiastical office-bearers the right of de- 
termining-, in accordance with directions contained in his 
Word, all questions as to whether or not men shall be 
admitted to Baptism and the Lord's Supper. We do 
not, of course, hold, that men who, through the reading 
or preaching of the Word, have been led to believe in 
Christ, will be deprived of the blessings which he pur- 
chased for all who receive him, merely because in God's 
providence they have not had an opportunity of partaking 
in Baptism aud the Lord's Supper, or because they have 
been excluded by unjust and unwarranted decisions of 
Church Courts, disregarding or violating Christ's direc- 
tions. But this admission is not in the least inconsistent 
with the position, that it is the bounden duty of all who 
have received the truth, to apply to the proper party for 
admission to these ordinances, and that thev cannot disre- 
gard or neglect this, if they have opportunity, without 
sin. Neither is the admission in the least inconsistent 
with the scriptural principle held by all Presbyterians, 
that since from the nature of the case, there must be 
some human and, of course, fallible party to determine 
all such questions, this power, according to Christ's ap- 
pointment, is vested in the office-bearers of his Church. 
Although Church Courts may, from negligence, human 
infirmity, or the influence of bad and sinful motives, 
sometimes pronounce unjust and erroneous sentences, 

might lay deep the foundations of his system, published a tract, 
in which he tried to prove that the Lord's Supper might be 
administered without a pastor, and that men might discharge 
the duty of commemorating Christ's death without the use of 
outward symbols. This tract was answered by Petavius, a 
Papist, by Dodwell, an Episcopalian, and by Cloppenburg, a 
Presbyterian. It is also deserving of notice, that Tindal sub- 
joined this tract of Grotius to the Defence of his celebrated 
work, entitled " The Rights of the Christian Church asserted 
against the Romish and all other priests who claim an indepen- 
dent power over it." Tindal, like most other infidels, thought 
that all church power was Romish, and like some in our day 
who are not infidels, he could see no medium between Popish 
and Erastian views upon this subject. 


excluding- men from outward ordinances, which Christ, 
of course, will not ratify in heaven, still they are the party, 
and the only party, to whom applications for admission 
to these ordinances should he made, and who are entitled 
to give a decision upon them. Their liability to err, the 
probability that they may sometimes pass sentences which' 
Christ will not approve and ratify, does not disprove 
their competency to entertain and settle these questions. 
It does not overthrow their legitimate authority. It 
does not prove that they are not entitled to decide these 
points. It does not show that there is any other party 
among men competent to decide, or warranted to con-; 
trol them in the exercise of this function. And the 
proper and natural effect of an adverse decision by the j 
competent, the only competent party, the party autho- 
rised by Christ to settle these points, though, of course, 
liable to err, should be to lead men to consider very care- 
fully whether they can confidently appeal from this human 
and fallible tribunal to the only higher authority, that of 
Christ himself, the only lawgiver, the only king and head 
of his Church, the sole arbiter of the everlasting destinies 
of men. 

Having thus explained generally what the administra- 
tion of the distinct government which Christ has appoint- 
ed in his Church, and vested in church officers, includes 
or implies, what it is that these church officers in the 
exercise of their function of government are to do, as 
comprehending especially the ordination, and of course, 
if necessary, the deposition of office-bearers, the admis- 
sion, and of course, if necessary, the exclusion of ordi- 
nary members to and from outward ordinances, we would 
now return for a little to the admission and ordination of 
ministers, as this bears more immediately upon the pre- 
sent subjects of contention. 

Every thing necessarily connected with the examina- 
tion and admission of ministers, is in its own nature 
spiritual or ecclesiastical, it forms an essential part of that 
distinct government which Christ has appointed in his 
Church, and therefore ought to be regulated and settled 


on'y by those who, to use the language of our standards, 
" have been furnished by Christ with gifts for govern- 
ment, and with commission to execute the same when 
called thereunto." Nothing can be conceived more 
thoroughly spiritual in its character than the ordination 
of a pastor to administer Christ's ordinances. In no 
part of the ordinary business of the visible Church is there 
a more direct and immediate reference to the authority, 
[the presence, and the agency of him who rules and pre- 
serves the Church, who alone has given, and still gives, 
pastors and teachers for the work of the ministry, and 
the edification of his body, who walks in the midst of 
the golden candlesticks, and holds the stars in his right 

None are entitled to judge of the question, whether a 
particular individual is possessed of the necessary qualifi- 
cations, and ought to be ordained, except those who have 
already been admitted to bear office in the Church. No 
civil power can give any man warrant to administer 
Christ's ordinances, and to bear rule in his house. This 
must flow from Christ himself, and it can be done rightly 
and effectually only, in accordance with his directions, by 
those who have been commissioned and authorised by 
him for that purpose. So clear and unquestionable is 
this great principle, that it is still to this day a part of 
the statute law of Scotland, that " the examination and 
admission of ministers shall be only in the power of the 

If, then, a court of Christ's Church, constituted and 
acting in his name, can alone ordain to the office of the 
holy ministry, they are, of course, bound to decide for 
themselves, on their own responsibility, and by their own 
conscientious convictions, whether they will ordain or 
not. This is manifest even upon the general principles of 
liberty of conscience and the right of private judgment, 
independently of any specific appointment of Christ. 
The power of ordaining to the office of the holy minis- 
try, is a talent which they, and they alone, possess, and 
for the exercise of which they are responsible, as free and 


rational agents. In the employment of this talent, and I 
in the exercise of this power, they are not only entitled, 
but bound, to be guided by that right of private judgment, 
which is the inalienable privilege of every intelligent and 
responsible being, subject in its exercise only to the au- 
thority of him, who alone is Lord of the conscience, and , 
alone, therefore, entitled to require men to regulate their 
opinions and their conduct according to his will. 

But independently of this great principle, which, in \ 
accordance with the general grounds of moral obligation, 
precludes Church Courts from ordaining, except where 
they are conscientiously persuaded that they ought to 
ordain, they are subject in this whole matter, and in de- 
termining every question of this kind, to the authority of 
Christ, in whose name they act. They are bound to 
have regard to every intimation of his will applicable to 
this point, and to all the objects which he has enjoined 
them to aim at. There are qualifications which he has , 
required of bishops or pastors, of which Church Courts i 
must judge ; there are rights which he has conferred 
upon the Christian people, as to the formation of the I 
pastoral relation, which Church Courts are bound to re- 
spect ; there are objects pointed out by him, for which 
the work of the ministry was established, and which in 
setting apart any man to that work, they are bound to 
regard. It is their duty to have a supreme and exclusive 
regard to all these considerations, because Christ requires 
this at their hands. They are responsible to him, and 
to him alone, for the decisions to which they may come 
upon all these matters, and not only has no foreign or 
civil authority a right to prescribe to them, whether they 
shall ordain or not, but they are bound to disregard any 
such interference as a usurpation of Christ's sole head- 
ship, an invasion of the rights and liberties of his Church. 

In short, it is clear as noonday, that if Civil Courts' 
are entitled to interfere in the way of prescribing or con- 
trolling as to the ordination of ministers, they have as 
good a right, or as the able and learned Erastians of former 
days thought, a far better right, to interfere in regard to 


the admission of ordinary members to the sacraments of 
the Church. And if the Church were to be guilty of 
the sin, and to submit to the degradation, of acquiescing 
in the principles which have been put forth by those who 
are opposed to her recent proceedings, there would be 
nothing' improbable in ministers and kirk-sessions being- 
soon compelled, under the superintendence of a sheriff's 
officer, or a macer of the Court of Session, to impart to 
notorious profligates the symbols of Christ's broken body 
and shed blood, to the dishonour of the Head of the 
Church, the profanation of his holy ordinance, and the 
unspeakable disgust of all his faithful people. 

If these principles be well-founded, they form a full 
vindication of all the recent proceedings of the Church of 
Scotland. The sum and substance of what she has done 
is just this : She has resolved that, come what may, she 
will not grant ordination to the pastoral office, in opposi- 
tion to her own conscientious convictions as to the duty 
she owes to Christ and his Church in this matter ; and 
she has applied this principle, by resolving that she will not 
ordain Mr Young to be minister of Auchterarder, on the 
ground, that the great body of the people are resolutely 
opposed to his settlement as their pastor. She has re- 
jected him, on this ground, as not a right and proper 
person to be ordained minister of Auchterarder, persuad- 
ed that in doing so, she was acting according to the 
mind of Christ, and for the edification of his Church. 
She has determined that, whatever orders Civil Courts 
may issue, or to whatever penal consequences she may 
be exposed, she will not go through the degrading and 
impious farce of ordaining him minister of a Christian 
people, who declare that they will not receive him as 
their pastor ; and, by God's grace, she will adhere, at all 
hazards, to that determination. 

When a Church Court is asked to grant ordination 
to the office of the ministry, in a case where that minis- 
try is to be exercised in a heathen land, or where there 
is not any formed or organized Church of Christ, then, 
in deciding the question, whether they will ordain or not, 



they are called upon to consider only, whether the indi- 
vidual possesses the general qualifications for being- a mi- 
nister of the Gospel, and the special qualifications for the 
particular sphere proposed. If they are satisfied that he 
possesses the necessary qualifications, and is willing- to 
devote himself to this work, then they are warranted in 
ordaining- him. And here we may remark by the way, 
that trying or examining candidates for the ministry, is 
as much a spiritual or ecclesiastical matter, — belongs as 
exclusively to the province of the Church Courts, and 
should be as free from all civil control, as the ordination 
itself. The examination and the admission, the trials 
and the ordination, are indeed parts of a process which 
is substantially, one and the same. A Presbytery is asked 
to admit a man to the ministry, and as Christ has re- 
quired certain qualifications, they are bound to proceed 
to examine, whether he be a person that ought to be ad- 
mitted or not. Application is made to a Church Court 
to ordain, and they are bound to take trial of the appli- 
cant, that they may decide, as the result of the trial, whe- 
ther they will ordain or not. The trial or examination 
is intended solely for the purpose of obtaining materials 
for enabling them to decide, whether it be right and 
agreeable to Christ's will that they should ordain, and, 
therefore, the trial or examination is a necessary part of 
that branch of Church government which comes under 
the general head of the admission and ordination of 
ministers, and should be regulated by the very same 
principles, and especially by the same exclusion of civil 

We have made this remark, because some persons have 
thought that the Church Courts might, in obedience to 
the Civil Courts, have proceeded to take Mr Young on 
trials, though not to ordain him. But they would there- 
by have acknowledged the right of Civil Courts to inter- 
fere, to a certain extent, in a matter plainly ecclesiastical, 
and would also have acted a dishonourable and disingenu- 
ous part, unless they really regarded the question of Mr ; 
Young's ordination as minister of Auchterarder to be still ; 


open — to be one that might still be decided favourably or 
unfavourably, according to the result of the trial or ex- 
amination. The supreme judicatory of the Church did, 
several years ago, reject Mr Young, as not a fit and pro- 
per person to be ordained minister of Auchterarder, avow- 
edly upon the ground, that the great body of the people 
were opposed to his settlement. The whole claims and 
pretensions of the Church to independent jurisdiction in 
spiritual matters, to ecclesiastical authority upon scrip- 
tural grounds, are now, therefore, staked upon the validity 
of that sentence of rejection. And any thing on the 
part of the Church that seems to imply the possibility of Mr 
Young being again thought of as possible minister of Auch- 
terarder, must either be a disingenuous profession of what is 
not seriously contemplated, or else a submission to the 
claim of the civil power to headship over the Church — 
a prostration of the powers and prerogatives which Christ 
has conferred upon his Church and people at the feet of 
the secular authority. * 

But while examining or taking upon trials is thus a 
necessary part of the general business of the ordination of 
ministers, to be performed by Church Courts without 

* Attempts have been made to mystify this subject, by press- 
ing the distinction between examining or taking on trials, and 
ordaining or admitting, and by insisting that the statute law 
imposes the former as a duty upon Church Courts, but not the 
latter. The truth, however, is, that this distinction has no 
more foundation in law than it has in reason and common sense. 
The law is, that the " examination and admission of ministers 
shall be only in the power of the kirk ;" and the statutory obli- 
gation, both in the act of 1592 and in the act of 1711, is not to 
take on trial, but to " receive and admit " a qualified presentee. 
The duty of receiving a presentee is discharged when he is re- 
cognised in that character, and any step is taken toward his set- 
tlement. The only other duty which the words of the statutes 
seem to impose, is to " admit " him. But as even the boldest 
of the Church's opponents shrink from maintaining, that Church 
Courts are bound to admit a man in obedience to an order of a 
Civil Court, they have made a separation between trying and 
admitting, although this separation has no warrant, either in 
the reason of the case, or in the law of the land. 


foreign interference, on their own responsibility, for the 
satisfaction of their own consciences, and while in some 
cases, formerly referred to, the mere examination of the 
personal qualifications of the applicant, may be quite suf- 
ficient to warrant the Church Court to proceed to grant 
ordination ; yet there is usually, as an accompaniment of 
ordination, or necessarily involved in it, another idea 
which requires the introduction of other principles, viz., 
the formation of a pastoral relation between the minister 
ordained and a particular Christian flock. When we con- 
sider the formation of the pastoral relation between a mi- 
nister and a particular flock, the setting one man as 
pastor over others in the Lord, we are bound to inquire 
whether Christ has given the flock any place, standing, 
or influence in this matter, or has subjected them entire- 
ly to the discretionary authority of the Church Courts. 
Any intimation of his will upon this point, must, of 
course, be implicitly obeyed. Now, we believe that there 
are sufficient materials in Scripture, all, of course, given 
us by Christ for the regulation of our opinions and con- 
duct, to establish the conclusion as a portion of divine 
truth, that while Church Courts may ordain men upon 
the ground of merely personal qualifications, so as to 
make them ministers, and authorise them to dispense the 
Word and Sacraments, when there is no Christian con- 
gregation over which they are to be made overseers, yet, 
that in the formation of the pastoral relation between a 
minister and a particular flock, the consent of that flock 
is necessary, and that therefore Church Courts, in the 
exercise of their power of ordination and collation, are 
imperatively required to ascertain and regard this. * The 

* This distinction is explicitly recognised by Hooker, in the 
following remarkable passage in the Seventh Book of his Ec- 
clesiastical Polity : " The power of order I may lawfully re- 
ceive, without asking leave of any multitude, but that power I 
cannot exercise upon any one certain people utterly against their 
ivills ; neither is there in the Church of England, any man, by 
order of law 7 , possessed with pastoral charge over any parish, 
but the people, in effect, do chuse him thereunto ; for albeit, 

;lecture ii. 21 

scriptural proof of this will be set before you in next 
Lecture. We have made this passing reference to it, 
merely to show you how it connects with our present 
train of argument, and would now only repeat, that if 
there be any scriptural ground, as we believe there is, for 
maintaining, that the pastoral relation should be formed 
only with the consent of both parties, minister and flock, 
then Church Courts are as imperatively bound, by a re- 
gard to the authority of Christ, to have respect to this 
principle in the exercise of their power of examination, 
ordination, and admission, as they are to require that 
every one whom they ordain to the office of the ministry 
shall be " blameless," " the husband of one wife," " apt 
to teach," " no striker," " not given to much wine," " not 
greedy of filthy lucre." 

Believing, then, on the authority of Scripture, and of 
the Confession of Faith, that the Lord Jesus, as King 
and Head of his Church, has therein appointed a govern- 
ment, in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the 
civil magistrate, we have explained to you what it is that 
these Church officers, in the administration of this go- 
vernment, are to do ; and we would now advert to the 
extent of their province, and the sphere within which their 
authority is to be exercised. Their power and authority is 
limited, as to its sphere or province, by a regard to the 
objects for which it was put into their hands. It applies 
fully to those only who have freely and deliberately be- 
come members of the visible Church. The apostles dis- 
claimed all right to judge those who were without ; and 
so should all those who succeed them in the ordinary 
administration of this government. 

The power of Church Courts extends only to ecclesi- 
astical matters, and implies no authority to regulate or 

they chuse not by giving every man personally his particular voice, 
yet can they not say, that they have their pastors violently ob- 
truded upon them, inasmuch as their ancient and original inter- 
est therein hath been, by orderly means, derived unto the patron 
who chuseth for them." Vol. ii. p. 305, of Dobson's edition. 
Lond. 1825. 


determine the civil rights of men. Church Courts have 
no right to decide any questions concerning- the persons 
and property of men ; but all these questions, whomso- 
ever they may affect, must be settled by the ordinary civil 
tribunals. Ministers are just as much subject to the 
ordinary civil courts as any other members of society, in 
regard to every question that concerns their persons and 
their property ; and as we acknowledge the exclusive 
right of the ordinary civil tribunals to decide every question 
affecting their persons and property, so we disclaim all 
right, on the part of Church Courts, to decide any ques- 
tion as to the civil rights of any member of the commu- 
nity. The administration of the Church government 
which Christ has appointed, in the hands of his office- 
bearers, extends only to the performance of the ordinary 
necessary business of his visible Church, — to the doing 
of those things which must be done if Christ's ordinances 
are to be administered, and his Church to continue on 
earth. If these ordinances are to be observed, men must 
be set apart to administer them, and to determine, also, 
who are to be admitted to the enjoyment of them. While 
Christ's Church continues upon earth, these processes 
must be continually going on. Christ has given direc- 
tions about them in his Word ; and, with these directions, 
he has intrusted the doing of them to his own office- 
bearers. Whatever be the outward condition of the 
Church, this business must be transacted ; and it should 
be transacted only by those who have been commissioned 
by Christ to do it; and only in accordance with his 
directions. Whether the Church be countenanced and 
supported, or merely tolerated, — whether it be protected 
or persecuted, by the civil authority, — still, ministers 
must be appointed and ordained, and men admitted to 
outward ordinances ; and all this must be done by Christ's 
officers, according to his orders. We claim for ecclesias- 
tical office-bearers no right but merely that of doing what 
must be done wherever the Church exists, and of doing 
it according to Christ's directions, without the interfer- 
ence of any foreign authority. We claim for our Church 


Courts no power or authority but what was enjoyed and 
exercised by ecclesiastical office-bearers during the first 
three centuries. We claim nothing but what is enjoyed 
and exercised at this moment by all the Presbyterian Dis- 
senters amongst us, in perfect consistency with the peace 
of society and the security of men's civil rights. We 
claim this, and nothing more, — and we will be satisfied 
with nothing less. We maintain, that the Church of 
Christ ought ever to enjoy the same spiritual power and 
authority which the primitive Church possessed, and 
which Dissenters now enjoy ; and we do so on this 
ground, — that we know nothing in Scripture to warrant 
the Christian Church, in any circumstances, or for any 
reason, to abandon any of the privileges which Christ has 
conferred, or to neglect any of the duties which he has 
imposed ; and nothing to warrant or entitle civil rulers 
to claim, in return for their countenance and support, a 
right to interfere in the regulation of ecclesiastical affairs, 
or to exercise any authoritative control over Christ's own 
officers, in the administration of that distinct government 
which he has put into their hands. 

The province, then, within which this government is 
to be exercised is confined to ecclesiastical matters ; and 
there is no great difficulty in determining what matters 
are properly and intrinsically ecclesiastical, and what not. 
Without entering into detail upon this point, we submit 
the following proposition, which we are confident will 
commend itself to the understandings of men : — All those 
things are ecclesiastical, and of course comprehended in 
the administration of the distinct government vested by 
Christ in his own officers, which accord with the two 
following conditions: 1st, That but for Christ's estab- 
lishment of his Church on earth, they would not be done 
at all ; and, 2d, That wherever the Church exists, and 
in whatever variety of outward circumstances, they must 
be done, and cannot be dispensed with. 

Now, tried by these tests, it is manifest that the ordi- 
nation of men to preach the Gospel and to administer the 
sacraments, — the setting one man over others in the 


Lord, to feed their souls, — is a matter strictly and pro- 
perly, in its own nature, ecclesiastical ; and, being essen- 
tial to the existence and efficiency of the Church, in all 
varieties of outward condition, must have been contem- 
plated by Christ) in the appointment of that distinct 
government which he has put into the hands of Church 
officers, and in the administration of which no foreign 
authority, no civil functionaries, have any right whatever 
to interfere. 

But while we disclaim all right, on the part of Church 
Courts, to interfere in civil matters, and restrict their au- 
thority to ecclesiastical affairs, we think it right to point out 
a distinction upon this point, the disregard of which has 
given rise to much ignorant clamour. It is the distinction 
between the intrinsic nature or primary character of an act, 
and the consequences which may contingently attach to 
it. It is said, — You disclaim all interference in civil mat- 
ters, and yet, in point of fact, you do affect men's civil 
rights. You refuse to ordain Mr Young minister of 
Auchterarder, and you thereby deprive him of the sti- 
pend, manse, and glebe. Is not that an interference with 
civil rights ? 

Now, to this we answer, — 1st, It is by no means cer- 
tain that our refusal to ordain Mr Young will deprive 
him of the temporal emoluments. That question is still in 
court, and must be decided, of course, like every other 
civil question, by the ordinary civil tribunal. For any 
thing we know, the Court of Session may find that Mr 
Young is entitled to all the emoluments of the be- 
nefice, notwithstanding our refusal to ordain ; and if they 
do, we will make no farther opposition to his enjoyment 
of these emoluments, if his conscience permit him to re- 
ceive them. 2d, If the loss of the emoluments of the 
benefice follows from our refusal to ordain, it was not the 
Church, but the State, that established this connection ; 
it is not the law of the Church, but the law of the land, 
that produces this consequence. The Court of Session 
will be very willing to assign to him the civil emoluments, 
notwithstanding our refusal to ordain, if the law of the 


land will admit of it ; and if the law of the land does 
not admit of this, that is not the Church's fault, — she 
did not make the law, and she is not responsible for it. 

But, 3d, The conclusive answer to the objection is 
this, — The right of the Church to decide in this matter 
depends not on the question, whether, through the in- 
tervention of the civil authority, civil interests may, in 
point of fact, be affected ? but on the question, whether 
the decision be given upon a point that is in its own 
nature, and in its proper primary character, civil or 
ecclesiastical ? The Church's decision was simply a 
refusal to ordain Mr Young-, and to form the pastoral 
relation between him and the people of Auchterarder. 
This was a matter in its own nature ecclesiastical. The 
Church did not step out of her own place to meddle 
with civil things ; she gave a decision upon a point 
which she was bound to decide, and could not avoid 
deciding, in one way or other. Mr Young's appli- 
cation for ordination came before her, as a matter of 
course, as a part of the ordinary business of the go- 
vernment which Christ had appointed her to admin- 
ister. Application was made to her to do what was 
unquestionably within her sphere, and what she alone 
was competent to do. In considering how the applica- 
tion was to be disposed of, she was bound, by her allegi- 
ance to Him in whose name she acted, to have regard 
exclusively to his revealed will, and the edification of his 
body. In deciding the point, she was not called upon, 
nay, she was not at liberty, to consider how either her 
own civil interests or those of Mr Young might be af- 
fected by it, but simply what was the mind and will of 
Christ, and what was best fitted to promote the welfare 
of his Church. She did act upon this principle, and re- 
fused to ordain. For the civil consequences that may 
result from this decision she is not responsible ; and by 
a regard to them she could not, consistently with her 
duty to Christ, be influenced. If there be civil laws 
which attach certain civil consequences to decisions of 
Church Courts, the State, of course, may alter these laws 


if it chooses. But whether civil consequences follow or' 
not, the Church Courts are solemnly and unchangeably 
bound to have respect, in all their decisions, to the re- 
vealed will of Him who is " the same yesterday, to-day, 
and for ever." 

There is another great scriptural principle with respect 
to the ecclesiastical authority which Christ has vested in t 
the office-bearers of his Church, the explanation of which : 
will not only tend much to the general illustration of; 
the subject, but contribute also at once to remove objec- 
tions to the views that have been propounded, and to 
establish, if possible, more fully the position, that the 
Church could not have acted otherwise than she has done, 
in those recent proceedings that have brought upon her 
so much obloquy, without violating the duty which she 
owes to her only King and Head: — It is the prin- 
ciple, that all ecclesiastical authority is only ministerial, 
and not lordly ; and this brings us to the consideration 
of the standard by which Church power ought to be regu- 
lated. It may contribute at once to explain the import 
of this proposition, — that ecclesiastical authority is mi- 
nisterial, and not lordly, — and to establish its truth, if 
we advert to some of those scriptural statements that 
have been usually adduced by orthodox divines in sup- 
port of it. In the words of the text, as we have already 
explained them, the apostle distinctly asserts, that he and 
his fellow-apostles are not lords over the other members 
of the Church, but servants ; that Christ was the only 
Lord ; and that he was equally Lord of the apostles and 
of the humblest of the ordinary members of the Church. 
If the apostles were not lords, but acted simply and solely 
as Christ's ministering servants, delivering his will, and 
not their own, ; for the good of the Church, which is his 
body, surely none who have succeeded them in the ad- 
ministration of the ordinary government of the Christian 
Church are entitled to proclaim themselves lords, or to 
lay claim to any thing like a lordly power or authority ; 
that is, a power or right of acting in the administration 
of Church government according to their own views, as 


distinct from what Christ has revealed and prescribed ; 
or according to their own will or discretion, as distinct 
from his. The same principle is laid down in several 
other passages in the apostolic epistles. Paul says, 
1 Cor. iv. 1, 2, "Let a man so account of us as of the mi- 
nisters of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 
Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found 
faithful," implying-, that they were entitled to do no- 
thing- but what their Master authorised and appointed. 
The same apostle says, 2 Cor. i. 24, " Not for that we 
have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your 
joy ;" a statement plainly implying-, that, even in mat- 
ters of revelation, although men were, in point of fact, 
bound to receive implicitly what the apostles taught, yet 
that this was not because of any power or authority which 
they possessed, but merely because they were fully ac- 
credited, as the inspired messengers of Christ's will. 
They required men to receive what they preached, just 
upon the same principle on which ministers among our- 
selves, in publicly reading the inspired Scriptures, are 
warranted to call upon their hearers to receive it not as 
the word of men, but of God. 

In like manner, the Apostle Peter, (1 Pet. v. 1, 3,) 
after virtually disclaiming for himself lordship over pres- 
byters, by calling himself their co-presbyter, enjoins them 
to act not as being " lords over God's heritage, but ex- 
amples to the flock;" a statement which shows, that 
when the apostles, as the administrators of Church go- 
vernment, disclaimed lordship, this was intended to ex- 
press not merely their entire subjection, in all that they 
did as ecclesiastical office-bearers, to the authority of Christ, 
but likewise to limit or define the extent of that autho- 
rity which they were entitled to exercise over the ordinarv 
members of the Church. These ordinary members of 
the flock are all entitled to the free exercise of the right 
of private judgment on every thing connected with their 
personal salvation, — a right which they must exercise 
upon their own responsibility, subject only to him who 
is Lord of the conscience. Christ has also given to his 


people a high place and standing in his visible Church ; 
he has conferred upon them important rights, which the 
office-bearers of the Church are as much called upon to 
respect, in the exercise of the power and authority com- 
mitted to them, as any thing else which he has prescribed. 
And by these great principles of the right of private judg- 
ment, — the inalienable birth-right of intelligent and re- 
sponsible beings, — and the standing and privileges which 
Christ has conferred upon the members of his body, must 
the ecclesiastical office-bearers limit the exercise of their 
authority, if they would not be guilty of the sin of lord- 
ing ft over God's heritage. 

It is declared, in the Confession of Faith, (c. xxxi. 
s. 3,) " That it belongeth to Synods and Councils" 
( composed, of course, of Church officers ) " minis- 
terially to determine controversies of faith and cases 
of conscience." They are to determine controverted 
points of faith and practice, but only ministerially ; 
that is, only by declaring what Christ has already de- 
termined in his Word upon these points, and not as if 
they had a right to settle them by any power or authority 
of their own, — as if any discretion were left to them in 
these matters, or as if any obligation lay upon men's con- 
sciences to submit to their decisions upon those points, 
except in so far as they are warranted and authorised by 
the written Word. " It belongeth also," the same autho- 
rity declares, " to Synods and Councils (i. e., to superior 
Church Courts) to set down rules and directions for the 
better ordering of the public worship of God and govern- 
ment of the Church." But then this diatactic power of 
Church Courts, as it is usually called, to set down rules 
and directions, is, according to the general opinion of or- 
thodox Presbyterian divines, limited by these important 
principles, — 1st, That the things about which rules and 
directions are to be set down be things which, as to the 
substance of them, are required or authorised by Christ 
in his Word, in the worship and government of his 
Church. 2d, That the rules and directions extend only 
to the mode of doing those things which Christ in his 


Word requires to be done, but the mode of doing- which 
he has not determined ; and that they be all directed to 
the one object of securing that these " things be done 
decently and in order," and be necessary for securing- that 
end. 3d, That the rules and directions prescribed by 
Church Courts for securing that the things which Christ 
has required to be done, but the mode of doing which he 
has not determined, "be done decently and in order," do 
not of themselves hind the consciences of the mem- 
bers of the Church, so that the mere neglect or dis- 
regard of them necessarily involves sin, and affords 
ground for inflicting the highest ecclesiastical censures. 
It is the general doctrine of Presbyterian divines, that 
the neglect or disregard of any rules or directions pre- 
scribed by Church Courts, even in accordance with the 
preceding limitations, but not directly authorised by the 
written Word, — does not afford, of itself, ground for in- 
flicting the highest censures of the Church, — that it af- 
fords ground for such sentences only when it implies 
scandal, or manifests a contumacious disposition ; i. e., 
when it does not proceed from a reasonable or probable 
scruple of conscience, but from a desire to produce con- 
fusion and disturbance, — to display disrespect and con- 
tempt of ecclesiastical authority, or to overthrow the 
foundations of Church power, — a state of mind which is 
in itself sinful, and, when openly exhibited in conduct, 
affords sufficient ground for deposing an office-bearer, and 
excommunicating an ordinary member. 

The next clause in the section of the Confession to 
which we have referred, — declaring, " That it belongs to 
Synods and Councils to receive complaints in cases of 
mal-administration, and authoritatively to determine the 
same," — refers not to the general powers competent to 
Church Courts, simply as such, but to the subordination 
of Courts ; i. e., the right of superior Church Courts to 
receive and determine appeals from inferior ones. This 
is one of the points of controversy between Presbyterians 
and Independents, and does not belong to our present 
subject. The concluding sentence in the section, how- 


ever, states admirably both the legitimate authority of 
Church Courts, and its scriptural character, as ministerial 
and not lordly. It is in these words : — " Which decrees 
and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, 
are to be received with reverence and submission, not 
only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the 
power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of 
God, appointed thereunto in his Word." 

This general principle applies to all the sentences 
of Church Courts, in determining controverted points 
of faith and practice (usually called potestas dog- 
matica), — in setting down rules and directions for the 
better ordering of the public worship of God, and go- 
vernment of the Church (potestas diatacticaj, — and 
in deciding all particular cases of discipline connected 
with the infliction or remission of church censures (po- 
testas diacriticaj. It plainly declares, that the authority 
of Church Courts is an ordinance of God, appointed in 
his Word ; and that, therefore, their decrees and deter- 
minations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be 
received with reverence and submission. This is founded 
upon the scriptural principles, that Christ has appointed 
a distinct government in his Church ; that he has vested 
the administration of this government in church officers, 
assembled in regularly constituted Church Courts ; that 
he has authorised them to entertain and decide certain 
species of questions ; and that he has imposed, by express 
scriptural precepts, the general duty of obedience and 
submission on the ordinary members of the Church, re- 
quiring them to obey those that bear rule and are over 
them in the Lord. This general duty of obedience, how- 
ever, imposed by Christ upon the ordinary members of 
the Church, is not absolute and unlimited, any more than 
the obedience resulting from any other relation subsisting 
among men, — the obedience due by children to parents, by 
servants to masters, by subjects to civil rulers. It is 
qualified and limited, not only by the great paramount 
obligation applicable to all relative duties, that we must 
obey God rather than man, but also by the kind of sub- 


jects to which it extends, and the objects for the promotion 
of which the correlative authority was bestowed, and to 
which, consequently, its exercise ought to be directed. 
These decrees and determinations are to be received with 
reverence and submission, " if consonant to the Word of 
God;" and, whether they be consonant to the Word of 
God or not, men must of course decide for themselves, 
in the exercise of their own responsibility, and in obe- 
dience to the express injunction of God, " to prove all 
things," and " to try the spirits." If they are consonant 
to the Word of God, then they are to be received with 
reverence and submission, not only for their agreement 
with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are 
made ; men being bound to show their respect for God's 
ordinance, by having regard to the fact that these decrees 
and determinations are made in the lawful exercise of a 
power or authority which God has appointed, and by 
cherishing those feelings of reverence and submission 
which this consideration is fitted to call forth. 

Church power or ecclesiastical authority is then wholly 
ministerial, Church Courts being, in every exercise of 
their power, in all their decrees and determinations, to 
have regard to Christ's revealed will ; to keep within the 
province which he has prescribed to them ; to require 
nothing to be believed which he has not revealed ; to re- 
quire nothing to be done which he has not imposed ; and 
to inflict the highest censures of the Church for nothing 
but what is directly, or by plain implication, a trans- 
gression of his revealed will. They are bound to have 
supreme and exclusive regard, in all their decisions, to 
all the directions which he has given, to all the qualifica- 
tions which he has prescribed, and to all the rights and 
privileges which he has conferred upon his people. 
There is no room left for the exercise of an arbitrarv 
discretion, — for the enforcing of their own notions, for 
the gratifying of their own inclinations, for the pro- 
moting of their own ends, — as distinguished from what 
Christ has revealed, prescribed, or required them to aim 
at. To attempt any thing of this sort, would be to act, 


not as ministers or stewards, but as lords. Civil rulers 
have, indeed, a lordly authority in their province, which 
comprehends every thing- connected with the persons and 
the property of men ; but that of ecclesiastical rulers is 
only ministerial. Our Saviour himself has clearly marked 
this distinction, where he says : " Ye know that the 
princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and 
they that are great exercise authority upon them. But 
it shall not be so among - you : but whosoever will be 
great among you, let him be your minister ; and whoso- 
ever will be chief among- you, let him be your servant." 
Matt. xx. 25-27- Civil rnlers, t. e., legislators, — for to 
them only, properly speaking, does the principle applv. — 
do exercise, and are entitled to exercise, dominion and 
authority ; i. e., it is lawful and competent for them, in 
subordination to the glory of God, the welfare of the 
community, and a respect to any statements of God's 
Word that may happen to apply to the particular subject, 
to exercise some measure of discretion in making laws, 
in altering or modifying these laws as they may think 
fit, and in enforcing- obedience and submission to their 
enactments. Ecclesiastical rulers have not, properlv 
speaking, any discretion. The constitution and laws of 
Christ's kingdom are already fully settled and determined 
by him in his own Word. They have no right to make 
laws, but merely to administer and execute those which 
Christ has appointed ; and it is their very glory and 
honour, the source and ground of their true dignity, that 
their authority is only ministerial — that they are just the 
servants and stewards of Christ — and the servants of his 
people, for Jesus' sake. Civil rulers may ordinarily legislate 
in the way they, in the exercise of their own judgment, think 
best fitted to promote the glory of God and the welfare of the 
communitv, provided no objection can be brought from the 
Word of God against their proposed enactments ; where- 
as ecclesiastical rulers are wholly limited in the exercise 
of their authority by the written Word, and should have 
positive warrant and direct authority from Scripture for 
their decrees and determinations. 


The assumption and exercise of a lordly authority in the 
Church, of a right to impose articles of faith and ceremonies 
of worship, and toinflict the highest censures of the Church, 
without scriptural warrant and authority, form one of the 
leading features of the Papal apostasy, the man of sin and son 
of perdition ; and, although Protestants, asserting the su- 
preme and exclusive authority of Christ as the lawgiver 
and head of his Church, and the right of private judg- 
ment, have generally contended that church power or 
ecclesiastical authority is only ministerial and not lordly, 
yet some Protestant Churches have failed in making a 
full and faithful application of this principle. We re- 
gard the power claimed and exercised by the Church of 
England, " to decree rites and ceremonies," to be an un- 
warrantable assumption of lordly authority. We consider 
it an interference with Christ's sole supremacy and 
with the liberties of his people, to require that the Lord's 
Supper shall be received only in a kneeling posture — the 
example of our Saviour plainly indicating that it ought 
to be received in the ordinary posture commonly used at 
meals. We regard it as a lording over Christ's heritage to 
intrude a minister upon a Christian people against their 
will. Our Church, indeed, is not responsible for the 
principle of intrusion, for it is expressly condemned in 
her constitutional standards ; but our Church Courts, in 
former days, were guilty of many scandalous intrusions. 
The possibility of intrusion has been, we trust, con- 
clusively prevented by the veto law ; and, while our de- 
termination to adhere to the principle of that law rests 
mainly on the grounds, that the intrusion of a minister 
upon a Christian people, in the full enjoyment of Chris- 
tian privileges, is opposed to the revealed will of Christ, 
the liberties of his people, and the right of private judg- 
ment, that determination is confirmed by the conviction, 
that the right of the Church Courts to retain the power 
of intruding, if they see cause, — and this is the sum and 
substance of what our opponents contend for, — can be 
defended only on principles which would vindicate the 
lordship assumed over God's heritage by that apostate 


church, which exalteth itself against Christ and all that 
is called God. 

The elucidation given of this great principle, that 
Church power is purely ministerial and not lordly, will 
tend, we trust, to remove any prejudices that might be 
entertained against the claim of Church Courts to inde- 
pendent and exclusive jurisdiction in all ecclesiastical 
affairs, and show that it interferes neither with the sole 
supremacy of Christ as the only lawgiver and head of his 
Church, nor with the privileges and liberties which he 
has conferred upon his people, and the right of private 
judgment which they all enjoy as intelligent and respon- 
sible beings. 

This great principle also lays a clear and firm founda- 
tion for certain important practical conclusions, bearing 
immediately upon the present subjects of contention, and 
fully establishing, not only that the Church did right 
in all that she has recently done ; but, further, that she 
could not have acted otherwise, without being guilty of 
a heinous violation of the duty which she owes to the 
Lord Jesus Christ. These conclusions are indeed deduc- 
ible, with sufficient clearness, from the general truth 
already illustrated, as taught in the Confession of Faith, 
that Christ has appointed in his Church a government in 
the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil 
magistrate ; but they come out, perhaps, still more pal- 
pably, as corollaries from the position that the power 
or authority implied in the administration of this govern- 
ment is only ministerial and not lordly, while, at the 
same time, when viewed in this connection, they strik- 
ingly illustrate this interesting consideration, that it is 
the real honour and dignity of Church Courts that their 
power or authority is ministerial. 

These practical conclusions are chiefly two : — 1st, 
That, in the administration of Church government, or in 
pronouncing decisions upon ecclesiastical affairs, Church 
Courts not only are not bound, but are not at liberty 
to obey the orders or directions of any civil or foreign 
authority / and, 2c?, That y to their decrees and determi- 


nations, they are warranted and called upon to apply 
the principle, that we must obey God rather than man, 
and, on this principle, to adhere to them at all hazards. 
1st. If Christ has appointed a distinct government in 
his Church, and if the authority with which he has in- 
vested ecclesiastical office-bearers for the administration 
of this government be purely ministerial, then it follows 
that, in judicially regulating ecclesiastical affairs, these 
office-bearers are not at liberty to obey the orders or di- 
rections of any civil authority. Christ is the only law- 
giver and ruler of his Church. Its constitution and laws 
he has already settled and determined in his Word. He 
has given no authority to his office-bearers to make laws. 
They are as much bound by the laws which he has made 
and promulgated as the ordinary members of the Church. 
He has given them no discretionary jurisdiction, but, as 
they meet and act in his name, he has required them to 
have exclusive regard, in all they do or determine, to his 
own revealed will. He has empowered none but his 
own officers to administer the government of his Church, 
and any attempt of a party unauthorised by him to in- 
terfere in this matter, is a usurpation of his own supre- 
macy, an interference with his prescribed arrangements. 
If Christ had given to his officers a lordly authority, if 
he had left to them any discretionary jurisdiction in the 
government of the Church, they might, perhaps, have 
been warranted in delegating a share of their authority 
to others, or been at liberty to let others exercise some 
control over them in these matters. But their authority 
being only ministerial, they are bound to adhere rigidly, 
and in all respects, to their Master's arrangements. They 
are " stewards of the mysteries of God ;" and as " it is 
required in stewards," as the apostle says, " that a man 
be found faithful," and as it would be glaring and mani- 
fest unfaithfulness in a steward to obey any orders con- 
nected with the management of his master's estate which 
did not proceed from his master, or from some one having 
his master's commission, so it is plainly unfaithfulness in 
Church Courts, and in direct contravention to the nature 


of their office, the duties which it imposes, and their 
whole relation to their Master, to receive and obey orders 
or directions from any who have not Christ's commission 
to interfere. A proprietor may give commission to a 
friend or relative to manage his estate in his absence 
with the same lordly authority which he himself pos- 
sesses ; and, in such a case, the commissioner may take 
what advice, or follow what directions he thinks fit. But 
the authority of Church Courts being only ministerial, 
their duty is exactly like that of stewards, who have 
nothing to do but to follow their Master's directions, and 
who would be plainly guilty of unfaithfulness and dis- 
obedience, if they paid any attention whatever to any 
orders which did not come directly or indirectly from him. 
Civil rulers are guilty of sin when they presume to 
interfere authoritatively in the administration of Church 
government, comprehending every thing connected with 
the management of the ordinary necessary business of 
the visible Church, and including the ordination and deposi- 
tion of office-bearers, and the admission and excommuni- 
cation of ordinary members. When they attempt this, 
they step beyond their province, — they usurp a power 
which they do not lawfully possess, — they interfere with 
arrangements which Christ has made, — they set them- 
selves in opposition to his declared will. And as they 
commit sin in attempting to exercise such an authority, 
and to assume such a control, so ecclesiastical rulers are 
guilty of sin if they submit to the dictation of Civil 
Courts in ecclesiastical matters, or pay any regard to 
their orders. One is their Master, even Christ, and him 
alone should they obey. All the proceedings of Church 
Courts, constituted in Christ's name, must be conducted 
in his name ; and in regard to all the ecclesiastical mat- 
ters that come before them, and on which they are called 
upon to pronounce judgment, the one sole standard by 
which they are bound to regulate their opinions and 
their conduct, is the revealed will of their Master, as to 
the principles by which they ought to be guided, and the 
objects which they ought to aim at. If they adopt any 


other standard, this is virtually to assume to themselves 
a lordly authority, as if they were not servants and 
stewards, but left to their own discretion, or it is to put 
some foreign power in that place of authority which 
Christ, has reserved to himself. On every point which 
comes before them for decision, the one single desire of 
their hearts should be to ascertain what is the mind and 
will of Christ upon the matter. All their prayers and 
all their exertions should be directed to the discovery of 
this, and when they have made up their mind upon this 
point, then they are bound simply to obey and execute 
their Master's will, by a weight of obligation which 
transcends every other, and necessarily excludes all 
regard to any thing else. 

And as Church Courts are thus precluded from paying 
any regard to the orders of the civil power, in determin- 
ing how they will exercise the ministerial and stewardly 
power with which Christ has invested them, so, of course, 
they are also precluded from cancelling or reversing their 
own decisions by any regard to the will or authority of 
others. Their decisions upon all ecclesiastical matters 
that come before them are, or should be, just the appli- 
cations of Christ's revealed will to the circumstances of 
the particular case. If their prayers for divine guidance 
and direction have been heard and answered, — in other 
words, if their decision was a right one, then they were 
shut up to adopt it, — they were obeying Christ's will in 
pronouncing it. They would have been guilty of sin if 
they had not pronounced it, or if they had adopted an 
opposite decision. This being the case, it is plain that 
they cannot cancel or reverse any of their decisions upon 
any ground, except a conscientious conviction that, when 
they pronounced them, they had mistaken the mind and 
will of Christ. Church Courts knowing that their au- 
thority is only ministerial, virtually declare in every 
decision they pronounce, " This appears to us the mind 
and will of Christ upon the matter. We are bound by 
our allegiance to him to give this decision, and we would 
be acting inconsistently with our duty to him if we gave 


an opposite one." And, therefore, if they cancel or re- 
verse any decision which they have once given, this 
implies a distinct profession, either that they have now 
come to take a different view of the mind and will of 
Christ upon the subject, which of course they cannot 
profess unless it be true, or else that they do not intend 
to regard the mind and will of Christ in "the matter, but 
to regulate their conduct by another standard, or by sub- 
jecting themselves to a different authority. 

2d. The second practical conclusion flowing from the 
great truth that Church power or Ecclesiastical autho- 
rity is not lordly but ministerial, is, that Church Courts 
are entitled and bound to apply to their decrees and de- 
terminations, the principle that we must obey God rather 
than man ; and on the ground of this principle, to adhere 
to them at all hazards. This is so obviously involved in 
what has been illustrated under the former head, that it 
is unnecessary to dwell upon it. When Church Courts, 
in their judicial capacity, pronounce decisions upon eccle- 
siastical matters, they are not merely administering or exe- 
cuting Christ's laws, they are also obeying them. They 
are just doing, in each case, if their decisions are well 
founded, what Christ has not onlv authorised but required 
them to do. Thev should pronounce no judicial deci- 
sions in Christ's name, except upon points, the adjudica- 
tion of which they cannot avoid, if they would discharge 
aright the duties which he has imposed upon them. They 
should pronounce no decisions upon these points, except 
such as they believe his revealed will requires them to 
adopt. If, in any of their decisions, they either disregard 
his will, or through negligence or worse motives, and per- 
verting passions, or prejudices, mistake it, they are guilty 
of sin ; and whenever they are convinced of this, are bound 
to confess and repent, to change their mind, and adopt a 
different course. But if their decision was a right one, 
then they were obeying the will of Christ in adopting it, 
they are doing what he, in the circumstances, required of 
them ; and if they had either failed to pronounce it, or 
pronounced an opposite judgment, they must have dis- 


obeyed him, and been guilty of sin. Many of the deci- 
sions of Church Courts are, from the nature of the case, 
complicated with matters of fact, and questions of evi- 
dence, which must be judged of upon the ordinary grounds 
applicable to such points. But if their power be minis- 
terial, then, to all their decisions involving- any principle, 
the statements we have just made obviously apply. In 
pronouncing them, they have been obeying Christ, they 
have been only doing what he required at their hands. 
They could not have decided in an opposite way without 
being guilty of disobedience and sin. It would still be 
sin in them to adopt a different course of procedure, and, 
therefore, they must adhere to their own decisions, what- 
ever other authority may interfere with an opposite de- 
cree ; and to whatever painful consequences their sted- 
fastness may expose them. However high may be the 
authority that may require them to cancel or reverse their 
judgment, it cannot be equal to that of Him in whose name 
they acted, and in obedience to whose will they adopt it ; 
and the full and sufficient answer to all such demands, 
on the part of any civil or foreign authority, is, " We 
ought to obey God rather than men/' (Acts v. 29.) 

The application of these two conclusions to the re- 
cent proceedings, and present duty of the Church, is 
very obvious. When the Church, in passing the veto 
law, determined that no minister should be intruded upon 
any congregation contrary to their will, and that the 
dissent of a majority of male heads of families, commu- 
nicants, should be a sufficient ground for setting aside 
the presentee, she was not only giving effect to a funda- 
mental principle of her own constitutional standards, but 
determining in accordance with the mind and will of 
Christ, who has given us in his Word sufficient materials 
for believing that the pastoral relation should be formed 
only with the consent of both parties. In resolving to 
be guided by this principle in the exercise of her own un- 
doubted power of ordination and admission, she merely 
resolved to follow so far the will of Christ in this mat- 
ter ; to do what he required of her ; to have regard to the 


edification of his body. She was not making an arbitrary 
law of her own, on merely human and rational grounds, 
— she was declaring what she believed to be the law of 
Christ, and pledging herself to act upon it. 

If Christ has given to Church Courts a right to in- 
trude a minister upon a Christian people against their 
will, then, of course, they are bound to retain and to 
exercise this right. But, if he has given them no such 
right, and if, on the contrary, he has given them sufficient 
materials for concluding that ministers should not be in- 
truded, then they are guilty of disobedience and sin if 
they disregard or overlook this principle in the exercise 
of their power of ordaining and admitting. 

If any man can convince the Church that Christ has 
given her courts a right to intrude ministers upon re- 
claiming congregations, she will confess her error, rescind 
her veto law, and resume the old practice of intrusion. 
But, believing it to be Christ's will that intrusion should 
not be practised, she cannot rescind a law which is 
merely, so far as it goes, a declaration of Christ's will, 
and cast herself loose from the restraints which it im- 
poses. The civil authority may take a different view of 
this matter, and order her to rescind her law, and to 
change her practice, as has, indeed, virtually been done ; 
but she cannot change on any such ground. She cannot 
acknowledge the right of the civil authority to interfere 
in the regulation of a matter so purely ecclesiastical. 
The order of the Civil Court carries no conviction to 
her understanding and her conscience. It cannot, of 
course, change her mind, and what she has once resolved 
upon as required by the will of Christ, she cannot aban- 
don or disregard on any ground, except a conscientious 
persuasion that she has mistaken the mind of Christ. If 
this law is to be rescinded in obedience to a Civil Court, 
without any regard to what we still believe to be the mind 
of Christ, then we ask, where is this interference to end ? 
May not all our laws be rescinded on the same or simi- 
lar grounds ? And is not this virtually to ascribe to the 
civil power that lordly authority over the Church which 


ecclesiastical courts are bound to disclaim for themselves, 
and which the Word of God ascribes to Christ alone ? 

The Church having- pledged herself by the veto law to 
be guided in the formation of the pastoral relation by a 
regard to the consent, tacit or express, of the Christian 
people, because she believed that to be in accordance with 
the mind of Christ, acted upon this principle in the case 
of Auchterarder, and refused to ordain Mr Young- to the 
pastoral charge of that parish, on the ground that the 
great body of the people decidedly opposed his settlement 
as their minister. And the Civil Courts now require 
that she shall reverse this decision, take Mr Young on 
trials, with a view to ordaining him, if he be found quali- 
fied, minister of Auchterarder, notwithstanding the op- 
position of the great body of the people ! To obey such 
an order would be plainly to cast off the authority of 
Christ, and to exalt the civil power to his throne. It 
would be a virtual acknowledgment that a civil tribunal, 
which " Christ has not furnished with gifts for govern- 
ment, nor with a commission to execute the same," is 
entitled to bear rule in his Church, to regulate and de- 
termine ecclesiastical affairs, to exercise a power and 
control in spiritual matters, superior to that which Christ 
has vested in his own office-hearers* 

And, independently of this general ground, which would 
make it an act of sin to pay regard to such an interference 
of the civil authority, it must be kept in mind that, when 
the Church refused to ordain and admit Mr Young to be 
minister of Auchterarder, she did what she believed, and 
still believes, to have been accordant with the will of Christ. 
She believed, and still believes, that she would sin against 
Christ were she to pretend to form the pastoral relation be- 
tween him and a Christian people decidedly opposed to his 
settlement among them. Let her be convinced that, in pro- 
nouncingthat decision, rejecting Mr Young, she has sinned, 
and then she will repent and change, but not till then. The 
order of the Civil Court carries no such conviction with 
it ; and, therefore, she cannot, consistently with her duty 
to Christ, allow it to influence her conduct. She will 

e 2 


adhere, at all hazards, to her decided refusal to ordain Mr 
Young- minister of Auchterarder. Whatever authority 
may be alleged in opposition to that judgment, she still 
believes that she has the authority of Christ in support 
of it, and she must, therefore, adhere to it, whatever 
consequents may follow. It would be a falsehood were 
she now to profess that she mistook the mind of Christ 
when she rejected Mr Young. It would be to sin 
against Christ to declare that she does not regard his will 
in this matter. But a profession of one or other of 
these positions is necessarily involved in cancelling or 
reversing that sentence, which, therefore, would he 
manifestly sinful. She may suffer, but she will not sin. 
She may expose herself to the loss of many temporal ad- 
vantages, but her integrity to Christ she will hold fast. 
She will not let it go. Mr Young may, by a sentence of 
the Civil Court, get the temporalities of the benefice, but, 
while the people of Auchterarder are opposed to his 
settlement as their minister, he will not he ordained to 
the pastoral care of their souls. 

We have now given an imperfect outline of this im- 
portant and extensive subject. Setting out with the 
great truth contained in the Confession of Faith, and 
founded on clear Scriptural warrants, that " the Lord 
Jesus, as King and Head of his Church, hath therein ap- 
pointed a government in the hand of Church officers, 
distinct from the civil magistrate," we have proved to 
you that this doctrine applies not only to the subject of 
Church censures, but to the management or regulation 
of all the affairs of the visible Church, and that it neces- 
sarily implies that, in the administration of every part of 
this distinct government, the control of any foreign or 
civil authority, of any authority but Christ's over his office, 
is excluded. We have showed that the administration of this 
distinct government, or the management of the ordinary 
necessary business of the visible Church, comprehends 
every thing connected with the ordination and deposition 
of office-bearers, and the admission and excommunication 


of ordinary members ; that, upon Scriptural principles, and 
by the concession of all the most learned Erastians of 
former days, the ordination and admission of ministers is 
at least as thoroughly sacred and as purely ecclesiastical 
in its nature, as the infliction or remission of censures, and 
should therefore be, at least, as thoroughly exempt from civil 
control ; that this department of Church government 
comprehends the trial of candidates, and usually also, the 
formation of a pastoral relation to a particular flock, as 
well as mere ordination to the ministry ; and that there 
are directions given upon all these points in Scripture, 
by which, and by which alone, Church Courts ought to 
be guided in the exercise of this power. To guard 
against the idea that we were disposed to set up Church 
Courts, in the exercise of a despotic power or tyranny, 
and to prove that we claim for them nothing but what 
is quite consistent with the sole supremacy of Christ, the 
paramount authority of his Word, and the rights and 
liberties of his people, we have explained the great Scrip- 
tural truth, that all this power is only ministerial or 
stewardly, and not lordly or discretionary ; and that while 
on the one hand, all their decrees and determinations, 
must be regulated by a regard to Christ's revealed will, 
yet, on the other hand, this Scriptural principle clearly ex- 
cludes all civil interference with their decisions on eccle- 
siastical matters, requires of them to disregard all such inter- 
ference, to disobey all such orders, and to adhere to their 
own conscientious convictions, as to the mind and will of 
Christ, and the path of their duty, whatever dangers or 
persecutions may arise because of the same. 

If these principles, which we have endeavoured to 
establish, be well-founded, then it must be manifest that 
they at once afford a full vindication of all the recent 
proceedings and present claims of the Church of Scotland, 
and also, mark out distinctly the course which she is so- 
lemnly bound to follow. And, therefore, we are fully en- 
titled to expect and to demand that the opponents of the 
Church will either meet them fairly, and refute them on 
Scriptural grounds, or else confess that the Church could 


not have adopted a course substantially different from 
that which she has pursued, without virtually declaring- that 
she would not have Christ to reign over her, without sell- 
ing- her birthright for a mess of pottage, and sinking into 
the sinful degrading condition of being a mere tool or 
slave of the civil power. 


J. Johnstone, Printer, High Street.